This guest post is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.
Here are some sample products, most of them ebooks, that I recently saw available for sale and/or free download on some popular blogs:
- “Ten Steps To A Better Golf Game”
- “Creating Your Personal Life Plan”
- “How To Make Money Online”
- “23 Gluten-Free Recipes For You And Your Family”
Alright, I lied. I made up some of the titles, but I defy you to tell me which.
What do each of these titles have in common? Not much. Just dreariness of the first order, that’s all.
I’m repeatedly amazed at how so many bloggers can have scintillating information to share with their readers, and then, when it comes time to ask those readers to commit additional time and or money, opt for the uninspiring.
The act of buying your blog product involves minimal expenditure of your readers-cum-customers’ energy—just a few clicks are required. It takes almost no effort for them to buy. But it takes even less energy for them to ignore what you’re selling and move onto the next, flashier thing. So be that flashier thing.
Your product might have amazing and helpful content, but I’ll never know that if I can’t make it past a dull title that doesn’t compel me to buy.
Swap generic for specific
Take the first example above. If you’re a golfer, there isn’t a magazine, instructor, nor smug low-handicap playing partner on the planet who hasn’t offered to improve your game via one method or another. Of course your readers want to improve their game. That’s what golfers do! In fact, it’s all they do. Even Rory McIlroy would like to find a way to shave off a fraction of a stroke.
So here’s a blogger with a legitimate offer, presumably, yet he gave it as generic and unexciting a name as possible.
To create a worthwhile title, one that gets readers’ attention and compels them to act, you have to tailor it. Quantify. Be specific, not general. Swagger a little bit. Regarding our example, here are some ideas:
“Never 3-Putt Again”
The bane of the weekend player. Nothing’s more frustrating than sweetly swinging one’s way onto the green in regulation, only to end up bogeying. A title like this resonates with its audience, who can immediately empathize. Granted, it doesn’t say a word about wood and iron play, but being specific (obviously) requires you to omit certain stuff.
Or if that title doesn’t strike your fancy, how about:
“Don’t Toss Your Bag In The Ocean Just Yet”
Again, every golfing reader has been there and done (or certainly contemplated) that. “I was this close to selling my clubs on Craigslist and taking up pottery instead. But you’re saying I might not have to?”
Speak to your readers
This goes back to knowing your audience: what they want, what they’re visiting your blog for, why it matters to them. Gently persuading your blog’s visitors to maybe, if they’re not doing anything else, perhaps give serious consideration to possibly buying your products doesn’t work. It can’t. The volume of similar messages is just too overwhelming.
Like it or not, blog products are impulse items. Someone with an itch and a few shekels to spare sees what you’re selling and decides to buy. This isn’t as involved as shopping for a car or a house is.
My blog’s topic, personal finance, is more universal than golf. All of us, from the destitute university student to Gina Rinehart, would prefer more money to less. But if I wrote an ebook titled “Your Money-Making Action Plan”, my site’s online store would be covered with cobwebs.
Instead, I tried to err on the side of snappiness and provocation when naming the products I sell on my blog. They include:
Not to ruin the surprise endings for you—not that there are any, anyway—but “Your Boss Is Smart. You’re The Idiot” is about how to start your own business and, by extension, stop having your employer be the primary beneficiary of your toil.
Meanwhile, “The Unglamorous Secret to Riches” is about how to find underpriced stocks with the potential to appreciate. Which is done by the decidedly prosaic means of perusing financial statements: looking at balance sheets and their ilk with a critical and discerning eye. The activity itself is somewhat mundane, but on a per-hour basis it can pay handsome rewards.
Titles that touch a nerve
With the first title, I again empathize with readers, and touch a particularly sensitive nerve. Most of us have, or have had, bosses whose judgment we’ve questioned. We think, “I could do that easily. Why aren’t I in the corner office?” Well, here’s why. And maybe you don’t want to be in the corner office anyway. It just means that there’ll be one fewer level of management on top of you.
But if you start your own business—taking the necessary precautions beforehand, having the requisite capital available, and knowing which forms to fill out—you can enjoy the self-determination that you’re missing out on in your current and unfulfilling employee/employer relationship.
Titles that buck the trend
With the second title, I turn the idea of a “get rich quick” scheme on its head. Most of my personal finance blogging contemporaries also write for-profit products that ostensibly teach readers how to build wealth. But those bloggers seldom do more than tell those readers to clip coupons, hold yard sales, downsize their living quarters, etc.
Few bloggers in my realm tell their readers, “Here’s what to do with your savings. Forget about building an emergency fund. Instead, buy stocks. But not just any stocks, and not just well-publicized ones. And here’s the truth—there’s nothing exciting about the groundwork involved in doing this. It involves dry columns of numbers that you’ll have to decode the meaning of. But as boring as that sounds, if you want to make additional money, it beats the heck out of taking additional shifts at work. The excitement comes in the future, when the investments you bought (and that everyone else ignored) finally start to increase in value.”
Create a difference that sticks
With tens of thousands of blogs in existence, the tendency is toward homogeneity. Right now, without exaggeration, I could find you a thousand “mommy” blogs that all say essentially the same thing: here are some foods you should never feed your kids, here are some Halloween costume ideas, here are some unsubstantiated threats to children’s safety that I’d nevertheless like to blow out of proportion and share with you.
It’s hard enough to find a unique, singular voice in a crowded marketplace as it is. But by giving your products names that stick in your readers’ minds, you’re giving yourself a crucial point of differentiation.
Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].